The Bends.

This forum is for the general discussion of all topics diving related that are not covered by any other specialised forum here.

Have you been bent?

Yes - Required treatment
Yes - Didn't require treatment
Maybe - though I can't be sure as my wetsuit might have been too tight (or similar)
No votes
Total votes: 6

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The Bends.

Postby whale » Wed, 11 Oct 2006 12:06 pm

Well most of us have been slightly bent at some stage or another - a headache after diving, being REALLY tired on the way home from the dive etc but do you know what to do or who to talk to if you do get a worse case of the bends?

This is my story.

It all started on the 01/03/98. I had recently finished my advanced course and we decided to visit the elusive (as she was back then without GPS) Eliza Ramsden. She was my 18th dive.

Fantastic dive, we went through the superstructure, beams silhouetted against the sun - brilliant. We went to 21m and had a bottom time of 29 minutes.

The conditions deteriorated and I can't remember where we were going to head to but we ended up at the 12m Sub. Depth was only 5m and I only stayed down for 15 minutes before pulling the plug as the vis was atrocious, as was the swell.

Finally, after a stay on the Portsea foreshore for a couple of hours to try and get rid of some gas, we decided to head out with a group of newbie’s who were going to Popes Eye for a training dive.

It was a very fun dive! Watching the newbie’s flailing about in the water, I couldn't believe that once I was so poor at the sport. (I bet I am just like them again after so long out of the water :oops: )

We went to a total depth of 12m with a bottom time of 20 minutes.

Those of you with a bit of experience would have a few alarm bells ringing about now.

21m, 5m, 12m depth dives - Reverse profile.

I felt good the following day (Monday), but by the evening I was not so good. I knew I was bent and being new to the sport went to the nearest hospital which in this case was Royal Melbourne. Big mistake.

They sent me home saying I had an ear problem which was causing my vertigo and balance problems. I had my doubts but they are the docs.

They sent me to the eye and ear hospital the following day and they gave me a clean bill of health.

During the day between these appointments I was still going about my normal day job - driving a small truck and running 50 - 100kg bags of linen to restaurants and cafe's. Very physical work which shook the nitrogen up even more exacerbating my N2 problems.

Eventually it got so bad that I was bouncing the truck of the curbs going around Brunton Avenue in Melbourne outside the MCG. How I didn't kill someone or myself I will only put down to sheer luck.

Luckily on my way home from the eye and ear hospital (isn't it always the way?) Simone who was one of my buddy's when I first started diving in Melbourne called me to say that my Buddy for the dives had just come out of the Tank at the Alfred and if I wasn't feeling good to head there and talk to the docs in hyperbaric medicine.

Off I went after work on Wednesday afternoon. I took the rest of the day off once I got the truck back to base in Richmond and drove to the Alfred.

Sure enough, I was told to return the following day to be put in the tank for a deco. I was also banned from driving until my deco had finished.

I called my mum and she thought I was drunk. I wasn't and was picked up an hour or so later by the parents.

By the following morning I had had enough. I was really not feeling well.

Symptoms: Nausea, dizziness, spells of vertigo, numbness in the mouth area, skin tightness in my hands, the worst headache of my life, muscle spasms, lack of concentration, loss of coordination, blurred vision and slurred speech.

Dad drew chauffer duties and drove me to the Alfred for my 11am appointment on Thursday the 4th of May. We got there and I was prepped for the tank dive.

I was on full oxygen for 1 hour and 25 minutes and continued to have nausea and dizziness attacks while in the chamber.

All symptoms were gone when we "surfaced", though the dizziness and nausea returned in the afternoon.

We returned for a second chamber dive at 12:45 on Friday the 5th. All my symptoms were gone but they still wanted me to do the dive just to be certain.

Another downside to all the symptoms was the hit to my diving. I wasn't allowed to go back in the water for a month. My wallet appreciated it but at the time I didn't!

In conclusion, the crew at the Alfred were fantastic. It was an experience that whilst not overly unpleasant, I do not want to repeat.

If in doubt, don't wait; go straight to the Alfred or call DES or your dive club and ask for advice. Being in the dive caper for only a month hadn't helped. I was too green to know who to talk to and it is only through experience that I can give this advice. I thought I was doing the right thing by going to a hospital.

The Alfred Hyperbaric Unit:

DES (Divers Emergency Service):
Within Australia (Toll Free) 1800 088 200
Outside Australia +61-8-8212 9242

I found the following reading on the DAN website while I was looking for emergency numbers. DAN advise to call DES so it is a no brainer (call DES).

It is a very interesting read and I noted in surprise at what some of my symptoms actually were. Please read this - especially if you answered "Yes - Didn't require treatment" or "Maybe - though I can't be sure as my wetsuit might have been too tight (or similar)" in my poll

Stay safe and watch your N2 levels.



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Postby neilegend » Wed, 11 Oct 2006 3:49 pm

i voted NO as i really dont think i have had the bends. but then i have had one time after 2 dives for the day i had to have a short nap on the side of the road on the way home as i was waay tired. i havent had headaches or numbness just some tiredness so i wouldnt have thought i was bent - but yes maybe i did have a bit of N2 build up. even though the chart showed i was in the safe range.
thanks for the post it was very informative. (this is the kind of thing which helps all of us divers)

i want to be under the sea, i breath my air by the tank !.
so far 80+ dives and trying to get more every week or two.
lets face it the bay is the best dive site until, now, brumby buggers it up! NO to dredging! no matter which person leads the State.

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Postby Hev » Fri, 20 Oct 2006 8:19 pm

I have to second Pete. If you are at all unsure about whether you are bent call the Alfred and ask for the hyperbaric doctor or call DES.

Mostly being a bit tired is just that, but you need to assess that tiredness against your actual fitness level and the actual effort required for the dive(s). Some days it's harder than others.

Having said that please also explain what to look for to your non diving freinds/family. I was having difficulty breathing and had chest pains and I said to my sister "I feel funny". She was the one who realised that I wasn't thinking right and called the Alfred. They asked to talk to me and after only a couple of minutes they concluded I needed proper assessment and asked me to come in. When you're the one who's brain is affected you are not a good person to be making decisions.

have fun out there
- Hev

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Postby lloyd_borrett » Sat, 21 Oct 2006 4:18 pm


Suspect I've not been bent yet. After being told of the impact by some who have been, I'm trying to be very careful to avoid it.

When I was gliding, we had a saying, "There are two types of pilots: those that have landed with the wheel up, and those yet to do it."

Maybe this can be transposed to divers and being bent, but I hope not.

By the way, DAN have a Summer Dive Safety Seminar for members on Thursday 23 November at The Alfred Hospital. Topics include:
  • Accident Analysis & Water Safety - Victoria Police Search & Rescue
  • Drowning in Divers - DAN Asia-Pacific
  • Hyperbaric Myths & Misconceptions - The Alfred Hyperbaric Service

Should be a very interesting night.

$15 for DAN members and $20 for non-DAN members.
Call 03 9276 2323 or email

Best Regards, Lloyd Borrett.
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